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L.A. from Every Angle
Posted April 01, 2010 to photo album "L.A. from Every Angle"
As Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg shows, there are many different L.A.s inside the city limits. Joel Bleifuss takes us on the tour of how artists imagine Los Angeles.
Slide 26: L.A. of the Privileged
Bret Easton Ellis (1964 - ) Bret Easton Ellis is back living in L.A., the setting of his debut novel, Less Than Zero (1985), which tells the story of the lost, dissolute and privileged youth among whom he grew up in the wealthy L.A. neighborhood of Sherman Oaks, the son of Goldwater Republicans.
Here is Robert Downey Jr. as Julian, the drug addicted some-time prostitute, in the 1987 film Less than Zero directed by Marek Kanievska, based on the novel by Ellis.
Scott Timberg, writing in the Los Angeles Times, observes: “In his 1985 breakout novel, Less Than Zero, Bret Easton Ellis, then all of 21 years old, created young, jaded Angelenos who just didn’t care about anything: They recounted cocaine scores and semi-anonymous sex in the same tone with which they lamented their fading suntans.” According to Timberg, while Ellis may not have found critical acclaim, “serious writers of his generation … see him as an overlooked figure.” Timberg writes, “It may be that like a lot of things that emerge from California, the style and vision of Ellis’ work creates problems for East Coast intellectuals, but will become as enduring as psychedelia, surfing, the hard-boiled novel or fast food. … Many assumed that the Sherman Oaks-bred Ellis was one of his characters—that rather than rendering shallow and aimless lives, he, and his work, were shallowness and aimlessness itself. …. East Coast bias? There’s a long tradition of New York-based critics overlooking the popular and literary culture from California. … Ellis’ early style is in the West Coast minimalist tradition of Chandler, Carver and Didion. His interest in consumerism and youth culture—and his playing with genre fiction, especially horror, in some of his books—make him a consummate Southern California writer. … Will the dismissals of Ellis’ books someday seem as fatuous as Edmund Wilson’s famous inability to understand California private-eye fiction?”
In his 2002 autobiography, Random Acts of Badness, Danny Donaduce, the onetime child star (Danny Partridge), writes that the L.A. high school featured in Less Than Zero is similar to the former California Prep High School in Encino, California, that he attended. His fellow students at the school included the late Michael Jackson and the late Christian Brando, among others. Bonaduce writes, “When the book Less Than Zero came out, all my classmates were pissed. Not because it was an exact portrayal of our school—but because we failed to get any royalties.”